The prime minister has told the three MPs who left her party that she does not “accept the picture” that they portray of the Conservative party.
Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston resigned on Wednesday to join eight breakaway Labour MPs in The Independent Group.
In a letter to the three MPs, Mrs May said: “I know you will not have come to your decision lightly, but I must say that I do not accept the picture you paint of our party.
“Indeed, in each of the areas you highlight, our record in government shows that we are the moderate, open-hearted Conservative party in the One Nation tradition you speak.”
The first page of Theresa May's letter to the three MPs who left her party on Wednesday. Image: Ross Kempsell/twitter.
In a letter to Mrs May explaining their resignations, the three MPs said that they could not remain with the Conservative Party when its “policies and priorities are so firmly in the grip of the ERG and DUP”.
They added: “Brexit has re-defined the Conservative Party - undoing all the efforts to modernise it. There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hard line ERG which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy.
“We haven’t changed, the Conservative Party has and it no longer reflects the values and beliefs we share with the millions of people throughout the United Kingdom.
“The final straw for us has been this government’s disastrous handling of Brexit.”